With Sydney Harbour as its stunning backdrop, sailing will be an ornament to the Games. Four of the Olympic courses are within the Harbour and two outside the Heads, with racing in 11 events across nine classes. Although the host nation is expected to be a regular on the podium, Australia's sailors will need more than local knowledge to stay in front-most of the international teams have sailed in Sydney for the past three summers, ensuring they know the waters and weather almost as well as their Australian rivals.
Men and Open
Only the Soling class event-in which 8-m-long boats engage in America's Cupstyle duels-involves one-on-one match racing; the rest are fleet races. In the open Laser class, current world champion Robert Scheidt of Brazil will defend his Olympic title against tough competitors like Great Britain's Ben Ainslie. Making their first Olympic appearance will be the 49er skiffs, in which German pair Marcus Baur and Philip Barth are favorites. Australian Lars Kleppich is a strong chance in the Mistral sailboard event, as are New Zealand champion Aaron McIntosh and Atlanta gold medalist Nikolaos Kaklamanakis of Greece.
As well as five open events, the Olympics have women-only contests in three classes: the 470 double-handed dinghy, the Europe single-handed dinghy, and the Mistral sailboard. Greece and world No. 1 Ukraine are expected to be strong challengers in the 470. But an upset sprung by Australians Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell is a possibility. New Zealand, France and Italy should vie for honors in the sailboard, with world No. 4 Jessica Crisp of Australia an outside chance. The Europe class will pit Denmark's Atlanta gold medalist Kristine Roug against current world champion Margriet Matthysse of the Netherlands and Australia's Melanie Dennison, who finished second behind Matthysse at last year's world championships.
WHEN TO WATCH
- All Sailing races Sept. 17-30